The Coalbrookdale Masterplan

WILLIAM WILLIAMS

Find out more about a major development programme to reveal how Coalbrookdale changed the world.


Founded in 1967, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust has grown into one of the largest Independent museums in the world. As a registered charity with twin aims of education and heritage conservation, our mission is to be a world leading museum of industrial heritage; to operate with entrepreneurial flair and creativity in order to inspire and engage people in the world changing story of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.

The Trust cares for 36 scheduled monuments and listed buildings within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and operates 10 award-winning museums which collectively tell the story of Ironbridge’s universal significance for its unique role in the development of the Industrial Revolution that largely originated in Britain in the eighteenth century and later spread across the world. These museums received around 500,000 visits a year including 70,000 school visits.

The Museum is in the rare position of having its entire collections Designated of national importance and they include art and memorabilia relating to industrial history, Coalbrookdale ironwork and engines, decorative ceramics, especially Coalport China and Maws’ tiles and the Darby Collection which covers the homes, furnaces, possessions and records of the Darby family.

Coalbrookdale - the Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

In 1709, the Old Furnace at the Trust’s Coalbrookdale site was the setting where Abraham Darby first began smelting iron using coke as a fuel instead of charcoal. It was the creative leap that would allow the iron industry to break free from the restrictions of the renewable resources of water and timber and expand dramatically, exploiting the seemingly unlimited potential of fossil fuels and steam power. The innovations and cycles of industrial development that radiated out from the events of 1709 have changed how people live, work and communicate across the globe.

To commemorate the Trust’s 50th anniversary in 2017, we are launching an exciting development programme, the Coalbrookdale Masterplan, to tackle new projects and to refurbish key buildings and monuments within the World Heritage Site. The aim of the Plan is to create new ways of looking at and understanding the unique relic landscape that exists at Coalbrookdale, drawing together the individual elements of listed buildings, scheduled monuments, historic watercourse and ancient woodlands to tell the holistic story of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site from its origins to the present day and beyond.  The Plan will more fully narrate the world-changing story of Coalbrookdale, increasing visitor numbers, access and diversity of our audience, and increasing our profile, partnerships and financial sustainability.

The first phase of this ambitious programme was completed in spring 2017, the redevelopment of the Museum of Iron. Housed in the Grade II listed Great Warehouse built in 1838, the Museum of Iron was originally used by the Coalbrookdale Company to assemble cast iron products. The iconic cast-iron clock tower was added in 1843 and provides a striking landmark to the beautiful steep-sided valley.

 

The key strategic aims of the Masterplan for this important site will be to:

  • Fully explain, using dynamic and innovative exhibits, the significance and context of Coalbrookdale and place it at the heart of the World Heritage Site and its surrounding area.
  • Attract more visitors to Coalbrookdale and create a place that showcases the human innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the past and connects this to the present day.
  • Highlight recent research and use new technologies to create a site that is both local and global in reach, to bring new opportunities for learning in diverse ways and environments.
  • Carry out conservation work to the Old Furnace and associated buildings and create a new cover building for the monument that unifies the surrounding landscape.
  • Increase access to the Museum’s nationally Designated collections and internationally significant library and archives.
  • Expand Enginuity and provide outstanding learning opportunities for as wide an audience as possible.
  • Create a new destination café and utilise redundant space to create a new temporary exhibition gallery to showcase the Trust’s collections and take in touring exhibitions.
  • Create flexible conference and banqueting spaces to hire out all year round.

The Masterplan

Enginuity - Home to a digital revolution

Enginuity is the National Design and Technology Centre and a hands-on, interactive museum. It will become a centre of excellence for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM), delivering formal and informal learning to a wide audience. The development will enable a major step change to our visitor offer expanding and completely re-modelling Enginuity, substantially increasing its footprint by utilising the adjacent historic Engine Shop. The re-development will ensure its appeal is widened to visitors of all ages particularly teenagers and young people.

The Old Furnace and Associated Historic Building

A new interpretation of the Old Furnace, including a new cover building, will unify this internationally important monument with the rest of the Coalbrookdale site. Vital conservation and restoration work will be undertaken and further access improvements will be made.

Temporary Exhibition Gallery and Destination Café

A new gallery will be created for temporary exhibitions from our collections together with the opportunity to showcase touring exhibitions which will transform part of the historic Long Warehouse. A destination café will also be created within the building to further enhance our visitors’ experience and encourage more people to visit the area.

Collections Store, Library & Archive, Research Centre & Lecture Facilities

A purpose-built collections store, with full public access will be created within the Long Warehouse. Within the building new research and lecture facilities will improve access for visitors, researchers, academics and students alike to the Trust’s world class library, archive and reserve collections.

Carpenters’ Row Accommodation

Conserving the industrial heritage of the Ironbridge Gorge is at the heart of the Trust’s work and the row of workers’ cottages known as Carpenters’ Row will be restored and brought back into viable use as serviced accommodation for holiday makers and visiting overseas researchers.

For further information about the Coalbrookdale Masterplan contact development@ironbridge.org.uk or call 01952 435900